The Africa39 is announced

Just saw an announcement about the Africa39 list of upcoming African writers under 40.  More information is available via the Hay Festival Africa39 webpages .

According to the list of nominees, there are three with a Ghanaian connection:

  1. Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, author of Powder necklace [and yes, I have read it]
  2. Nii Ayikwei Parkes, author of Tail of the blue bird [which I have mentioned on several occasions!]
  3. Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana must go [I’ve already mentioned this novel, one of my favourites for 2013]

It is however worth noting that all these Ghanaian authors live mostly outside Ghana – though Nii Ayikwei Parkes is presently in Ghana.

Congratulations to all the nominees, and of course I look forward to reading the anthology of short stories which will be launched in ImageOctober 2014.

 

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A BIG literary week in Accra!

51hg9fpz0gL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_This is definitely going to be a heavy literary week in Accra, and when I first realized what the schedule would be, I wondered, on Twitter, whether I should clone myself!

This is definitely going to require a bit of juggling.

It started off with Writers Project of Ghana‘s Sunday evening radio show on CitiFM… with Chibundu Onuzu and Elizabeth-Irene Baitie.

Tuesday 16 July:  Taiye Selasi is doing a reading of her book, Ghana must go, at Taverna Tropicana in Nima.  There will also be music, DJ Kobby Graham.  Time:  from 8pm.  I would have liked to go but I think I might give this one a miss, as I do have to go to work the next morning.  Plus I have another commitment that evening…

Wednesday 17 July:  two events on the same day!   Chibundu Onuzu and Emmanuel Iduma will be reading at the WEB DuBois Center in Accra, from 6pm.  And, Taiye  Selasi is officially doing her Ghana launch of Ghana must go at Villa Monticello at 7pm [I think I will go to this one.]  I have a copy of her book, which I must start reading.  If there are copies for sale, then maybe I will buy some for work?

Friday 19 July:  Chibundu Onuzu and Martin Egblewogbe are doing readings, organized by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, at Sytris [I think I will go to this].  Onuzu’s book, The spider king’s daughter, is definitely on my wish list!

Thanks to fellow blogger, Creative Writing Ghana, for a composite post on some of these events.

A book launch and two readings – a busy two weeks in Accra

A couple of very busy weeks on the books and information side – that is, apart from work which included a four-day workshop on critical thinking and writing – and I am feeling rather guilty about not posting earlier.  No really valid excuses though.  But the long weekend for 1 July (Ghana’s Republic Day) is definitely providing a bit of inspiration!

I have to admit that I am usually fairly happy to attend book launches here in Accra, though I do admit that I tend to prefer those that involve fiction and/or some kind of historical orientation.  Business and management related books I tend to be a bit more picky about, but an invitation to the launch of Elikem Kuenyehia’s Kuenyehia on entrepreneurship was irresistible. Held at British Council Accra, this was a pretty high powered affair, with fairly sophisticated decorations, and many VIPs or should I say VVIPs present (including Sam Jonah as Chairman, Nigerian businessman and entrepreneur Tony Elumelu as Guest of Honour, Joyce Aryee as Chief Auctioneer and Kwasi Kyei Darkwah as MC)!  It was also great to see several Ashesi students and alums assisting in making the programme go smoothly – I know a lot of effort goes into this!

I attended two book readings:  one by Nii Ayikwei Parkes – which was held at Sytris, and wonderfully described and photographed by my colleague, Kajsa, so I won’t really go into any details, as she has really said it all.  Sytris was a good location, and having a small cafe as well meant that we were not only feeding our brains and hearts!  It was great actually seeing Nii Ayikwei Parkes in person, and hearing him perform some of his poems.

The second reading, held at the Goethe Institut, as part of their collaboration with Writers Project of Ghana,  was also by an expatriate Ghanaian/Nigerian writer, Taiye Selasiwho is known for having coined the term “Afropolitan”. There were excerpts from her short story “The Sex Lives of African Girls” which was published in Granta 115 and also from the manuscript of her forthcoming book, Ghana must go, which is due to be published in 2013. She was funny and at times biting in her critique of contemporary Ghanaian life.  Definitely someone to watch out for!

And because it was the last week of the month, there was our usual Accra Book Club gathering, a relatively small group, as usual, discussing – not in much detail though – Dan Rhodes Little hands clapping.  Most of us didn’t really like it, but that was OK.  And while munching on our pizzas, we talked about other books, including science fiction, the Twilight series, and the phenomenon of Fifty shades of grey – which none of us had read!

I am not sure what events will be coming up in July – but I am sure there will be some.  A good time to read though, as the weather here in Accra is definitely cooler!

Two Ghanaian literary detectives!

At the last Accra Book Club meeting, a small group of us – four actually – discussed, among other things, Nii Ayikwei Parkes’ Tail of the blue bird. The group had chosen it – mainly on yours truly’s recommendation, I am proud to say – as a contemporary Ghanaian novel.   And that we all agreed, it is, despite its movement from the hussle of Accra, which resonated realistically, to the rural setting of a forest village somewhere in the Eastern Region.  The use of English interspersed with Ghanaian expressions helps to reinforce the impression of the now.

Interestingly, at least one colleague brought up the theme of the Ghanaian detective story/crime novel, and of course we did mention the recent book by Kwei Quartey, Wife of the Gods, which several of us had read.  

Although we all felt that the Parkes book was better written, this was not a condemnation of Quartey’s novel, which was readable and enjoyable.

I mention this because another literary blogger from Ghana, Nana Fredua-Agyeman, recently talked about the lack of African detective novels, and specifically mentioned Quartey’s book as being innovative in this regard.

Certainly for Ghanaian fiction I would agree, but come to think of it, the heroine of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith is of course from Botswana, even if the author isn’t.  And what about Nairobi heat, by Mukoma wa Ngugi?  And aren’t there many South Africans who write crime fiction?

Still a good topic to talk – and think about.  Thanks Nana for bringing it up!

Missed reading by Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Tail of the blue bird

cover

On Saturday 8 May I read in the Daily Graphic newspaper that Nii Ayikwei Parkes was giving a reading at one of the local bookshops here in Accra.  Unfortunately, I had made another family commitment, so couldn’t make it.

I was actually disappointed, because I know Sytris, who were hosting the reading, and I wondered why I had not received any email, text, hard copy or phone notification that such an event was going on.  I did send a text asking for more info, but it was really too late to totally reorganize my day!

I must say that 8 May was one of those days when many events seemed to be taking place, and while some I knew I wouldn’t attend, there were a couple, such as the Parkes reading, that I might have, given that I have read his novel, Tail of the blue bird.  Plus there was the added attraction that the Accra Book Club put it on our next batch of books to be read and discussed!  Additionally I had had some email correspondence with Parkes when his book first came out regarding its availability here in Accra

Oh well, I guess it is one of those things, and obviously I am not on the right kind of “lists” or “loop”   Definitely something to work on, and also to kind of complain about.  At times I do find that Accra events can be quite insular, with invitations being sent out to those “known” to the event organizers, especially if there aren’t paid newspaper adverts.  Or maybe there were TV or radio adverts or announcements, and I didn’t hear them?

Books from the Ghanaian diaspora – at last!

Diasporan Africans, including Ghanaians, are certainly writing, and getting reviews.   The frustration here in Ghana is actually getting copies of their books to either read or buy.   I mention two specific examples:  one I borrowed a copy from a fellow member of the Accra Book Club, while the other finally landed in EPP where the author said it was supposed to be.  Only this happened about four months later than what the author had said was supposed to happen.   Oh well, the expression “better late than never” definitely comes to mind.

Wife of gods coverSo now I am about to start Kwei Quartey’s Wife of the gods simply because it does not belong to me, and I feel that I should not be “hogging” it, while others might be happy to read it.  I am happy to say that this is another “mystery”, which pleases me, as this is one of my favourite genres.  It will be interesting to see how the Ghanaian setting works.   I won’t say that I would be more critical about this aspect than in other such books, but I would certainly note what seemed to work, and what didn’t.  I also remember someone or some review making a mention of the popularity of the McCall Smith novels based in Botswana contributing in no small way to the popularity of novels with an African setting!   I will report more when I finish the book; starting it will be take place shortly.

I have been going to  the EPP bookshop just opposite the Ghana Trade Fair at La fairly regularly since I moved to Accra –Tail of the blue bird cover for personal reasons for a lot of the time, and more recently I have actually been buying books from them for work.  A colleague gave me the name of one of the staff, and I can only praise this young man for his customer service.  On more than one occasion we’ve phoned him to ask if EPP has a particular title in stock, and he responds quickly.  When I heard from Nii Ayikwei Parkes that his book, The tail of the blue bird, was supposed to be available through EPP I asked my contact, and after checking he told me it had not yet arrived.   And so I put this away (this was in July 2009 – about four months ago) and was very surprised when we called our contact earlier this week, and he mentioned that the Parkes book had arrived last weekend!  Now I am wishing that I had more time to read!